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The Truth About OpenGL Driver Quality 158

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the when-standards-aren't dept.
rcht148 (2872453) writes "Rich Geldreich (game/graphics programmer) has made a blog post on the quality of different OpenGL Drivers. Using anonymous titles (Vendor A: Nvidia; Vendor B: AMD; Vendor C: Intel), he plots the landscape of game development using OpenGL. Vendor A, jovially known as 'Graphics Mafia' concentrates heavily on performance but won't share its specifications, thus blocking any open source driver implementations as much as possible. Vendor B has the most flaky drivers. They have good technical know-how on OpenGL but due to an extremely small team (money woes), they have shoddy drivers. Vendor C is extremely rich. It had not taken graphics seriously until a few years ago. They support open source specifications/drivers wholeheartedly but it will be few years before their drivers come to par with market standards. He concludes that using OpenGL is extremely difficult and without the blessings of these vendors, it's nearly impossible to ship a major gaming title."
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The Truth About OpenGL Driver Quality

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  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:38AM (#46986917) Journal

    ATI blows equally. Intel is known to have a little better drivers but have software worts to encourage them to CPU bound for obvious reasons. Or was the case 6 years ago when I worked for a famous game company.

    Windows 8/8.1 blows on Nvidia with the latest drivers if you do not have the latest cards. Ask any owner as the majority of the 8.1 update 1 failures were NVidia related.

    My ATI 7850 also craps out requiring a re-image with any .4 drivers. 12.4 and 13.4 I avoid even though they are WHQ.

    The situation with the graphics markers are like the ISPs with broadband or the major telecoms when picking a cell phone. Not a monopoloy but an oligopoly run by a few. Boy I miss PowerVR, S3, 3DFX Vodoo, and Matrox.

    You can bet if they were still around competing toe to toe with Nvidia and ATI everyone would benefit regardless of which side you pick. To me I view them as picking AOL vs RealPlayer. Yuck.

    For the record I was an nvidia fanboy at one time too before owning ATI cards.

  • by Sits (117492) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:52AM (#46986989) Homepage Journal

    NVIDIA definitely write their own OSX drivers [nvidia.com]. I'm pretty sure AMD/ATI and Intel write their own OSX drivers too but these days GPU drivers are usually delivered with operating system updates (in a similar way that you can get driver updates through Windows update). Given how squeezing out GPU hardware documentation for Linux has been tough I don't think NVIDIA/AMD would be keen to help someone else write drivers that unlocked full functionality...

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:58AM (#46987015)

    The article seems to mention Windows/Linux (or Linux/Window). What about OpenGL/GLES drivers on other platforms, such as Mac OS X, Android, iOS, ?

    OS X and iOS well, the drivers I believe work, but can be slow. The reason is, well, Apple pretty much wrote the drivers for AMD, nVidia, Intel and Imagination Technologies. There probably was a lot of cooperation with the respective companies, but Apple pretty much wrote it themselves as the others do not have the time, money or resources to write drivers for Apple.

    Android is much like Linux and Windows. The driver quality depends a lot on the OEM. Most just blindly use the drivers as is and maybe tweak stuff if it doesn't compile, but that's it. Just take the code base and plop it in. You'll find OpenGL extensions that claim to be supported, but aren't, things that work wonky if you don't do it the right way, and features that are supposed to be supported, but so untested that they don't work.

    Android's further complicated because there are multiple vendors - AMD (as a derived part in Qualcomm SoCs), nVidia, Imagination Technologies, Intel, Broadcom (VideoCore, same as RPi), etc. Drivers from each are pretty sketchy because most are developed to the point of "it seems to work" and shipped as early releases, while later revisions fix bugs and such. But a year later, a new one comes out and more beta drivers.

    It can be a challenge if you want to code to the bleeding edge. Apple has a slight edge here as iOS exclusively uses Imagination Technologies and Apple's drivers are fairly consistent - if there's a bug, well, everyone ends up knowing about it and coding around it. When you're only worrying about effectively one platform, it's a bit easier.

  • by Sits (117492) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @01:15AM (#46987073) Homepage Journal

    There's a comment at the bottom of the article by David Poole [blogspot.co.uk] that links to a post talking about OpenGL driver quality on desktop Linux and mobile Linux [dolphin-emu.org]. The summary from that blog post is:

    • Vendor N closed source desktop Windows/Linux - Excellent. Near perfect.
    • Vendor X open source desktop Linux - Good. Highly responsive to bug reports but updates get to users slowly.
    • Vendor I closed source desktop Windows - Good but lacking useful features.
    • Vendor A1 closed source desktop Windows/Linux - Mediocre. Unresponsive to bug reports.
    • Vendor A2 closed source mobile - Bad. Buggy, vendor knows there are issues but doesn't fix them, driver limits performance forcing others to implement workarounds.
    • Vendor Q closed source mobile - Bad. Buggy, vendor is unresponsive to bug reports.
    • Vendor P closed source mobile - Unknown. Driver does not publicly support high enough version of OpenGL ES.
  • Ditto for my 7950, on anything from indie games that the developers will never have heard of to really weird legacy games that run like absolute shit on NVidia for some reason. For example, a DirectX 7 game that ran better on a 2008-era Intel integrated GPU tied to an ultra-low-voltage C2Duo clocked at 1.2GHz than it did on a GeForce 9600M with a C2Duo at 2.8GHz, even when both boxes had 4GB of RAM and ran Win7; but ran better than either on single-core 1.8GHz AMD chip with a low-end 2006 mobile graphics chip with Vista on 2GB of RAM (and also runs great on my current beast of a gaming box, with higher specs than all three of those put together and then doubled, which has the 7950 card I mentioned before).

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:06AM (#46987453) Homepage

    Really, considering the quality of drivers out of nvidia for the last year I'm glad I switched to ATI. I think it started around the nvidia 302.xx series, where the mass lockups began and the nvidia forums(before they were hacked) that had the 480k post thread with 1m+ views for TDR's. [nvidia.com] Then it was the crashing with firefox, that lasted from the 302's right up to the 320's. It only got worse about the time the 310's or 315's rolled around and the drivers were causing hardlocks across all 400,500,600 series cards. And I think it was right around the 308's where the complaints got so bad that nvidia was willing to pay shipping costs for anyone in the continental US to have their rigs sent to California so they could try to find out why the TDR problem was so rampant.

    I haven't heard anything good on the state of nvidia drivers, if I have a complaint about ATI drivers is that some programs are bit more sluggish compared to my nvidia card, but I'll take the stability over the TDR, TDR, TDR, TDR, TDR, TDR. And sadly it wasn't one card(had a 400, and two 560 series cards), and one configuration, or even one power supply or a particular CPU in my case. It was across AMD, Intel, various ram speeds, paired, non-paired, different PSU's, and machines in more than one physical location.

    My general policy has been to flip-flop every generation and go nvidia to ati and back again. But the last series of drivers pissed me off to no end that I dumped them for ATI, and Matrox didn't go anywhere they're still making video cards only on the business end though. The problem of course is much like the CPU business right? Remember the days of Cyrix, AMD, Intel? Well it was a case of hardware pushing so fast that not all of the companies could keep up. Same deal happened in the videocard market.

  • by taylorius (221419) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @05:14AM (#46987643) Homepage

    A small correction, Nvidia Quadro has not "turned into the Titan". Quadro cards are largely the same hardware as the consumer cards, but with minor changes to enable certain features. The main difference is in the drivers. Consumer drivers err on the side of speed, whereas Quadro drivers will typically have lower performance in a game type situation, but be better suited for CAD / 3D work.

  • by msclrhd (1211086) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @07:21AM (#46988027)

    If you read the blog post, they don't use letters: N=NVIDIA, X=Mesa, I=Intel, A1=AMD, A2=ARM/Mali, Q=Qualcomm/Adreno, P=PowerVR. There is no mention of Apple.

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